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Sarah Parkes

SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor

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Person with their arms stretched out and back facing us; standing in autumn field
Being able to thank ourselves, thank others, thank the Almighty (in whatever form that takes for you) or thank the universe in the present moment can be healing and can help us feel happier here and now.

We all want to be happy. We often imagine that moment in the future when our relationships improve, when we find the right job, when we meet our financial or fitness goals, when we can travel again and we tell ourselves that we will finally be happy when this change happens. Unfortunately, as you have probably already realized, once you achieve that perceived condition for happiness you may not feel happy and the pursuit of happiness begins all over again. This cycle can leave us feeling discouraged, stressed, exhausted and perpetually dissatisfied.

Gratitude can allow us to feel happier in the present moment. Gratitude is a state of gratefulness or thankfulness. Gratitude does not mean being thankful for things that we aren’t thankful for; instead being grateful entails being aware of some of the good things that we have, that we experience each day, and the ability to receive and give thanks for these gifts. Being able to thank ourselves, thank others, thank the Almighty (in whatever form that takes for you) or thank the universe in the present moment can be healing and can help us feel happier here and now. 

Benefits of Gratitude

  • Increases happiness and satisfaction NOW

  • Improves mental and physical health

  • Strengthens bonds in relationships

  • Enhances our ability to be compassionate towards ourselves and others

  • Reduces stress

  • Increases resilience and hopefulness

How to Practice and Build Your Capacity for Gratitude

Gratitude Journal

1. Each Day Record Three Things You Are Grateful For. 

These things can be very simple. For example, maybe you are grateful for the sandwich you had for lunch or the person who smiled at you on the street or your decision to go out for a short walk.  

2. Choose Three New Things Each Day.

We can often express gratitude for the same things over and over again. For example, we may be grateful for our families. Although it is important to recognize that we appreciate our family, it is also important to stretch your ability to recognize other things to be grateful for rather that just recording “my family” each day in your journal. You could think about something specific a family member did that day or a special characteristic that they possess. Simply ensure that the items you record are different each day.

3. Add Details.  

Be as detailed as you can. Try to record all the aspects of the person or situation you are grateful for.

4. Review your journal entries regularly. 

Take some time each week to look back at all the things you were grateful for.

5. Make your journal attractive. 

Choose a journal that appeals to you or get creative and customize your journal using colour, stickers, or other materials.

Thankfulness Jar

1. Choose a box or jar. Customize it. Make it fun.

2. Record things you are grateful for on pieces of paper and put them in your box/jar.

3. Continue to add moments of gratitude to your box/jar.

4. Make time to read your collection.

Thank You Notes

Write a thank you card, email, text or note to the people in your life you are grateful to.

Gratitude Meditation

Meditation can be another way to cultivate gratitude:

5 Minute Guided Meditation for Gratitude/Mindful Movement

Apps like Headspace and InsightTimer also offer gratitude meditations.

Sense and Savor Walk

Go outside for a walk. Notice the air, the temperature. Allow yourself to see your path with fresh eyes and notice what is interesting or attractive to you. Maybe you explore a leaf, the bark of a tree, take a moment to listen to a bird’s song, or smell a flower. Simply explore, appreciate and savor whatever draws your attention.   

About the Author

Sarah Parkes

SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor
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